Life After Dark – Chapter 126

Chapter 126

~ Timoria: Searching… ~

The tears had long since subsided and now silence filled the festively decorated ballroom. After being called over by a distraught Stefan, Alex and Marcus had listened to Nikolas' tear-filled recount of what had transpired only moments before. Like wildfire, the details of the tragic event swept through the room and whether the detectives wanted them or not, a roomful of volunteers were at their disposal.

Being their usual efficient selves, Detectives Garcia and Taggert had delivered the instructions to their handsomely dressed helpers. As Mrs. Landsbury and the rest of Wyndemere's worried staff had handed out as many flashlights as they could find, Alex and Marcus had instructed everyone to team up. Once the partners were assigned, the search was on.

Stefan's eyes had never strayed from Nikolas as he allowed the police officers to control the situation. He had watched as a countless sea of emotions flitted across the younger man's face. And now as his son moved to join the search party, Stefan called out to him. "Nikolas. Wait."

"I can't," Nikolas choked out. He took another step forward, but as he reached the doorway, he stopped. He placed his hand on the doorframe. With his back to his father, he asked quietly, "What if it's already too late?"

"You mustn't think like that," Stefan told him. He crossed the ballroom to stand right behind his son. Nikolas, having felt his presence turned to face him. The despair in Nikolas' eyes took Stefan's breath away. He reached for Nikolas and breathed a ragged sigh of relief when Nikolas, returning his father's embrace, rested his head on his shoulder. "Dawn will come back to us."

"It's all my fault—" Nikolas began.

"No," Stefan told him, continuing to hold his son in his arms. "None of this is."

"You're wrong," Nikolas disagreed. "I-I told her that I'd protect her. I-I promised her that I would never allow any harm to come to her, but I lied. I didn't protect her, and now she's gone. She was so afraid of the fog…and I-I made light of it… I let go of her hand…"

The torment in Nikolas' voice was unbearable. Stefan couldn't bear to hear Nikolas blame himself for something that none of them had foreseen. He roughly released his hold on Nikolas only to cup his son's tear-streaked face. With strong hands, Stefan held Nikolas' face still. His emerald green eyes glistened with tears for his fear for Dawn's safety and his love for both her, his son and their unborn child. His voice was gruff with emotion when he spoke. "None of this is your burden to bear. This was orchestrated by a demonic mind—"

"Helena?" was Nikolas' ragged whisper.

Stefan nodded, "Yes."

"Well, then see!" Nikolas all but shouted as he pushed away from Stefan. "I should have anticipated this! Dawn counted on me to protect her and I've failed miserably. She's out there somewhere alone and scared—"

"We will find her. No harm will come to her—"

"How do you know that?!" Nikolas exclaimed. His hands moved wildly as he spoke. "You speak with such conviction. There are no guarantees that we will find her! Tonight has taught me that. Nothing is guaranteed!"

"Exactly!" Stefan grabbed Nikolas' shoulders in an iron grip. Nikolas tried to pull away, but his father's hold was strong. "Nothing in life is ever guaranteed never forget that! Now that Helena has Dawn, she will erroneously believe that the upper hand is hers. She will believe that her success is guaranteed, but she will fail to realize that nothing ever is! Mark my words, Nikolas, Dawn will come back to us! We will find her! Helena will not win! I refuse to grant her that victory!"

Nikolas found a moment of comfort from his father's impassioned words. He gently cupped Stefan's cheek. "Thank you, Father." Feeling energized, he was impatient to join in the search for more clues, and without waiting for Stefan's reaction, Nikolas quickly left the room.

Stefan watched Nikolas walk away without another word passing between them. He was touched by Nikolas' term of endearment. He had waited eighteen years for his son to call him by his true name, and because of his mother's treacherous deed his wait was over. The irony was too bizarre for Stefan to consider it further, so instead he moved into action.

He reached inside his tuxedo jacket and took his cell phone from his pocket. He dialed the number of Spiros, his most trusted ally, and waited impatiently for the older man to answer. On the third ring, Spiros' heavily Greek-accented voice came on the line. Stefan scheduled a meeting for the two of them and quickly ended the call.

He turned to exit the room and was surprised to find that he was not alone. "Carlotta?"

"I came back," she simply said. Her voice was hoarse and her eyes were red. When Stefan pulled her into his arms, she didn't hesitate to lean on him.

"You shouldn't have gone with the others," he said softly. "I'll have Mrs. Landsbury prepare a room for you—"

"No," she shook her head. She raised her head from his sturdy shoulders and looked at him. "I need to be down there. I need to help, too… It's just that… I needed you with me, too."

"I'm here, Carlotta," he assured her. He threaded his long, tapered fingers in the silkiness of her dark brown hair. His lips lightly brushed across hers before he pulled her into his arms again. His hands moved down to her back, pressing her closely against him as he made his solemn vow to her. "I give you my word that Dawn and our grandchild will return to us unharmed. I promise you."

Carrie replied with, "Yes." She drew on his strength for a few moments more. Then their embrace ended and hand in hand, they left Wyndemere and joined in the search.


In the wee hours, the hazy fog lifted. The bone weary and anxiety-ridden friends and family of Dawn Cassadine continued on with their search. As hours passed and no sign or clue as to her whereabouts, many of them wondered if their efforts were in vain, but one look… One look at Nikolas' tormented face gave them the encouragement to press on. Dawn was out there somewhere, and somehow, they would find her.

The Port Charles Police Department, headed by Commissioner Mac Scorpio, called in the volunteer search party just before daybreak. Everyone was tired and rest was needed, Mac had said. If they were willing, their assistance would be appreciated later, but for now, they should go home.

There were protests, but Mac ignored them. When half an hour had passed and still his bidding had been ignored, Mac threatened to make arrests. Then, his suggestion was heeded. He breathed a sigh of relief as the dock began to clear. He wanted his men to continue to search for clues, and his mouth opened to say so when a firm hand latched onto his shoulder. A frown creased his brow as he whipped around to face the person with the iron grip.

"What are you doing?" Nikolas demanded. His brown eyes blazed a burning rage…that begged for release.

"Nikolas, relax," Mac placated him. He calmly removed Nikolas' hand from his shoulder, and with a soothing, but firm voice, he said, "I know what I'm doing-"

"Really?" Nikolas asked, his voice heavy with sarcasm and anger. "THEN WHERE IS SHE? Where's my wife, Commissioner Scorpio? Where's Helena and her little friend, Ari? Do you have them? Have they been questioned?"

Nikolas' screams of frustration brought a halt to the movement on the dock. The men in blue diverted their eyes from his fear and outrage. Nikolas' friends and family rushed to him. Carrie reached him first.

"Nikolas," she lightly placed her hand on his shoulder. "They're doing the best they can-"

"No," he vehemently denied. He shrugged her hand off of his shoulder as he turned to face her. "If they were doing their best, Dawn would be here now, Carrie! But, she's not here!"

"Nikolas-" Carrie began again, but the words wouldn't come. A fresh wave of tears rendered her speechless and she turned away from him. She moved blindly down to the edge of the dock. Her stance was one that didn't invite comfort, so Dara refrained from going to her. Wiping at her tears, she stared off in the direction of where Stefan had gone moments before and she silently said a prayer for her youngest child.

Nikolas was unaware of Carrie's turmoil as his wrath consumed him. He turned on Mac again. "Do you at least know anything about the garage? If there was a timer or if it was triggered? My God, Scorpio, DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING? Or are you treating this as a joke because she's a Cassadine?"

"Nikolas, that's not fair!" Alex told his soon-to-be brother-in-law. "Everyone out here cares about Dawn-"

"NO!" Nikolas bellowed. "Everyone who truly cares about my wife were sent away by him." He pointed towards Mac. "And, the ones who are left don't give a damn about her! I overheard them. That's what she gets for marrying a Cassadine.'"

"'Which one of you said that?" Mac wanted to know.

"IT DOESN'T MATTER!" Nikolas screamed. His rage was at a fever pitch. "She's a Cassadine, isn't that right, officers? She should have expected this because we're so fucking evil, right? Who cares that she's seven months preg…"

His voice drifted to a whisper and he painfully croaked, "Our baby…"

Knowing that Nikolas was spent and very near the breaking point if he hadn't already crossed it, Tommy went to him. He placed his arm around his shoulders, and said, "Come on now. We're taking you home."

Lizzie went to the other side of Nikolas and wrapped her arm around his waist. She had to fight to hold back her tears as he whispered softly.

"Home?" His voice was hoarse, and he leaned heavily on his two friends. "My home is gone, and I don't know where she is."

The silence on the dock was deafening as Tommy, Liz and Gina led Nikolas off the dock. Once they were gone, the few remaining friends drifted away. The cold February morning chilled Dara and she shivered. As she watched her brother-in-law leave, the tears she had willfully held at bay began to fall. Alex reached for her and she shook her headed. With a slight movement of her head, she indicated to him that she had to go to her mother. He understood and remained close by as her heels clicked away from him on the wooden boardwalk.

Unsure of what to say or how to respond, Dara linked her arm through her mother's. Softly, she said, "You can't stay out here all night. Mac is right. It's time we all headed back home and got some rest."

Carrie swallowed by a sob. "I can't rest with my baby out there somewhere."

"I know, Mama," Dara said, "but you can't stand out here all night either. Let us take you home. I can spend the night with you and-"

"No," Carrie replied, shaking her head. "Lucky's asleep and I'm not ready to tell him about Dawn." She looked at Dara and gave her a watery smile. "You and Alex can go. I'll see you in the morning."

"But, Mama, what are you doing? I can't just leave you here."

"I'll be okay here," Carrie told her. "Besides, I want to speak with Stefan about Nikolas-"

"So, it's because you'd rather be with Stefan, now?" Dara asked, trying to prevent an accusatory tone from seeping out. "What about Daddy? Have you thought that he should know about this?"

Carrie drew a long breath before she responded. She took Dara's hands and held onto them as she spoke. "It's not like that, Dara, and quite frankly, I don't appreciate your going there. And as far as Robert is concerned…he's the absolute last person… Look, if you want to call him, please be my guest. Now, I think you should go. Okay?"

Dara nodded. "Okay, Mama." She clung to Carrie as her mother pulled her into her arms. She whispered in Carrie's ear, "I love you, Mama."

"I love you, too." Carrie offered her daughter a watery smile as Dara left her arms and went back to Alex. The young couple was arm in arm as they left the dock, and Carrie watched until they were out of sight. Once they were gone, her thoughts drifted back to the night's events. Nikolas' cries to the commissioner went straight to her soul and took a piece of her heart along the way. He called her baby girl 'home.' Any doubts she'd had about their relationship had ended months ago. She knew that they loved each other. Their love was as tangible and real to her as anything, but the depth of it… The depth of Nikolas' love for Dawn was lost on her until he croaked out "Home."

She felt Scorpio's eyes on her and she turned to smile at him, reassuring him that she was fine. He gave her a curt, sympathetic nod and went along his way. Her eyes remained on him as he turned his back to her and consulted with his investigators. She remembered another word that was screamed at him by her son-in-law. Helena.

She frowned as she realized her mistake. She had never considered Stefan's mother hand in this. She should have thought of the older woman immediately, but her thoughts had never turned to her. She had only thought of her missing daughter and prayed that she and the child she carried was okay. She had never considered who might have taken her. She now guessed that her thoughts hadn't taken her there because deep down she knew who the culprit was.

She shivered, but not from the chill of the early February morn. No, she shivered because of her terror of the unknown. What was that woman capable of, she wondered. How far would Helena go to exact her revenge… Revenge? On whom and for what, Carrie wondered. What the hell was Helena so mad about and why was her baby her target? She held back a sob as the questions wracked her mind.

"Carlotta?" Stefan's hoarse voice enveloped her only moments before his arms did. "Where is everyone? Why are you out here alone?"

"The Commissioner sent the civilians away and I remained to wait for you. I hope you don't mind."

"Of course not," he told her.

Windors and the launch docked at the pier. Stefan held Carrie's hand as he led her down to the launch. They rode in silence as they floated back to Spoon Island. With his arms firmly wrapped around her, Stefan felt a change come over Carrie. When the launch docked, they stepped off and began the short walk up to Wyndemere. He thought twice of reaching for her hand, but his need to be closer to her overruled his mind. Their fingers were entwined as they entered the mansion.

Carrie stood still as Stefan removed her wrap from her shoulders, but when he moved to lead her upstairs, she pulled away from him. Her back was rigid as she stared into the orange and blue flames, which danced in the fireplace.

Stefan asked, "Would you like a brandy to ward off the chill?"

She shook her head. "I'm not cold."

"Well, perhaps-"

"Stefan, stop. I think I made a mistake in coming back here with you. Would you call Windors and ask him to prepare the launch for me?"

Stefan frowned. "Carrie, no. You were right to come back with me. You shouldn't be alone in a time like this. I'm here for you. I want to be here for you."

She released a deep sigh. "I know, but I'm not sure if being here with you is what I want right now."

"Before, you said-"

"I know what I said," she said as she turned to face him. "But I-"

"Mr. Cassadine," Mrs. Landsbury said as she entered the room. "I apologize for the interruption, but Mrs. Spencer is on the telephone. She wishes to speak with you."

"At this hour?" Stefan asked, frowning.

"She knows of Mrs. Cassadine's disappearance. Apparently, the police department telephoned her. She is adamant about speaking with you."

"Very well, then," Stefan sighed. He waited until Mrs. Landsbury made her exit before he spoke to Carrie. "Carlotta, this will only take a moment."

"It will take longer than that," Carrie mumbled. "Go ahead. Talk to her."

"Carlotta, I-"

Carrie raised a hand to silence him. She pointed to the telephone. "She needs you."

Stefan glanced at the telephone and then he looked back at Carrie. He lifted the receiver and with his eyes on the other woman, he said, "Laura."

"Mac called me. I can't believe what happened. Helena's done it all over again!" Laura said.

"Yes," he said softly.

"Well, how's Nikolas? Where is he? Is he there with you?" she asked.

"He's…hurting, and no, he isn't here. He's with his friends."

"He should be with us. We're his family. I'm coming there as soon as I can-"

"No," Stefan told her. "That won't be necessary. We've all been up the entire night and rest is needed. I'll call you later when the time is more convenient-"

"Convenient?" Laura repeated. "What does that mean? Nikolas should be with us. The comfort he receives should come from you and me."

"Laura, I agree, but he also needs to rest. His friends are there and I have full confidence in their abilities to provide him with comfort. However, if you wish, please feel free to contact him at the farmhouse."

"And, what about you? Will you join me there?" she questioned.

"Later, and now, if you will excuse me, I will speak with you later."

Stefan replaced the receiver and moved to stand over Carrie. Her eyes were closed as she rested her head on the back of the sofa. He softly said her name and when she didn't stir, he lifted her into his arms. He quickly moved up the staircase and soon, they were in his bedroom. He carefully placed her on the bed and began to make quick work of removing her shoes from her feet.

"What are you doing?" she asked him as she woke up. "I told you that I wanted to leave."

"There's no need for that," he told her. He left her and began to remove his own clothing. He felt her eyes on him and he took his time with his task.

Carrie rolled her eyes at him and moved into a sitting position. She averted her eyes and looked down at her tightly clasped hands. "This shouldn't have happened."

"What?" he asked.

"Dawn's abduction…it shouldn't have happened. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Stefan paused as his hands rested on his pants. He grabbed his dressing gown to cover his bare chest and in his barefeet, he padded across the room to Carrie. He sat beside her on the bed and his hands covered hers. "It doesn't make any sense to any of us."

Carrie pulled her hands from his. "Don't lie to me, Stefan. This makes perfect sense to you. This is your mother for God's sake! You understand this!"

"What are you saying?" he asked her. "Yes, I do believe that Helena is behind this, but as far as understanding her motives… I assure you that I do not."

"Well, I don't believe you," Carrie said. "You warned us all about her and now, you're feigning ignorance? I don't buy it, Stefan. I want to know why this happened and want to know now! And, don't insult me with stories about acquiring the Cassadine fortune. I've seen her clothes, jewels and that yacht! She didn't take my daughter because of money. What she did tonight goes beyond that, and right now, I want you to tell me. What is this all about? Why did she take my daughter to get back at you?"

Go to Chapter 127.

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